Online Master's Degree vs. Traditional Master's Degree - Which is Right for You?

Jennie Kroeger

Online education, also known as distance learning, is a relatively new aspect of the education industry. Much like other industries, advancements in technology have increased the accessibility to basic and advanced degrees for anyone with a reliable wifi connection, extra time on their hands, the financial means to take college classes. Everyone from students to teachers, to administrators, is quickly realizing the numerous benefits of offering and taking advantage of online degrees. But that doesn't mean that attaining an online degree, or even an online master's degree, is necessarily the right decision for your situation. Is learning in a classroom setting more beneficial than in an online or virtual classroom? The decision ultimately depends on the student. Here are some compelling statistics to help you make the decision. Online education and distance learning are quickly becoming the norm for the majority of educators, students, and administrators. The PEW Research Center issued a study in 2011 that showed more than 80% of four year public universities offered online classes (source). To date, that number has only increased. While determining factors like access and convenience are increasing (most online courses are asynchronous, which means they can be taken at your own pace), there's also a noticeable trend in teachers and administrators praising the added benefits of online learning. According to higher education periodical EdTech, 51% of college presidents believe that online courses provide an equal value as the same held in a classroom setting (source). Additionally, 48% of teachers and faculty have stated that distance and virtual learning courses are essential to higher education in the 21st century (source). As for students, online learning has ample benefits. Convenience in course schedules, improved access, and degrees being offered from highly reputable institutions make the quality of distance learning a no-brainer. But what about the costs? Contrary to popular belief, online master's degrees are not cheaper than those in a classroom setting. In most cases, an online course - especially in an advanced degree like a master's or doctorate - are equally priced to regular tuition rates. A recent survey by U.S. News has shown that the average credit hour for an online bachelor's program is $277 compared to $243 per credit hour when attending brick and mortar ( , . source). Typically, online degrees come with an extra fee, usually between $10 and $80. But there are other expenses to consider when looking at an online master's degree. A recent article by stated that any savings a student might incur by avoiding paying for room and board are often offset by tiered tuition rates (courses are priced differently if taken in smaller chunks), online course fees, travel costs (not all online courses are 100% remote), and various technology fees students have to pay in order to take the class like computers, laptops, wifi access, and more (source). So is an online master's degree a better option for you than a traditional master's degree? It depends on YOU. If you're interested in online degrees, the FSU College of Education offers a number of them, including an online master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction designed to help improve the skills and instructional effectiveness of certified teachers. Learn More About Our Online Master's Program in Curriculum and Instruction